Post by Joseph Mains
Photo by Payton Chung
Exploring Chinatown’s Dining and Drink
In the high-walled courtyard off Hotel Street, the hazy light of sunset settled around aloha shirts and cocktails. Surrounding our table was a constellation of makers and office folks, hip kids and big city travelers chattering over drinks, Friday energy bubbling through the fading colors of day.
We’d spent the afternoon exploring the streets, the brick and stone buildings filled with a mix of markets and local shops and artist studios. A ten minute drive from Waikiki, its docks and piers, away from the surf shops and hotels, feeling like the heart of Honolulu. Walking around, we felt the texture of immigrants and sailors, Hawaiian locals and travelers with their influences and traditions and food converging in one of the oldest Chinatowns anywhere.
Ancient Hawaiians fished this area. In the 17th century, the brother of Kamehameha the Great [ I ] lived here, and in the 19th century Chinese immigrants started opening businesses in the neighborhood, giving shape and name to its current feel. After pho and wings and pitch perfect service at The Pig and The Lady, we wandered past back alleys and street art — and at one point even the people making it — until we walked by Sailor Jerry’s old tattoo shop. We imagined a night like this 80 years ago, young sailors on leave with paychecks lined up to get a symbol of love or heroism, to mark a milestone or fondness of travel themselves.
Around the corner we finished our drinks and headed to dinner at Fête. On the corner of Hotel Street and Nuuanu Avenue, the dining room is snug and lit low with exposed brick serving sophisticated, worldly cuisine with ingredients tending toward the seasonal and local. After dinner and a little more exploring, we were ready to return to ‘Alohilani to relax and settle in to the night in Waikiki.